Contrast ratios describe a mathematical relationship between the background and foreground of a bit of text on your wiki. That math gives a wider range of people the opportunity to comfortably read your wiki.
Understanding visual acuity
Consider visual acuity. It's a measurement of how well you can read black letters on a white background from a particular distance, and it's something you've probably done before.
Think about your eye doctor's office. In the US, patients are seated 20 feet from the chart. Visual acuity is a fraction where the numerator is 20 and the denominator is the number assigned to that line on the chart, Statistically average visual acuity is being able to read the line marked 20 from 20 feet away: 20/20 — or 6/6, if you use the metric system.
Finding the contrast ratio
The visual acuity fraction is directly related to the contrast ratio — a mathematical expression of the comfort a person has in reading your wiki. The highest ratio is 21:1, which is black text on a white background — or white text on a black background. The lowest is 1:1, meaning that both background and text are the same color.
A person with 20/20 vision could probably see a page with a 2:1 contrast ratio, but it wouldn't be pleasant. So the minimum contrast ratio for the normally-sighted is 3:1.
But you can't deliver a wiki that's only good for people with 20/20 vision. That's why the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommends two standards: AA and AAA.
With AA, the aim is to account for people who have 20/40 vision by providing a CR of 4.5:1 for regular text, and 3:1 for larger copy. AAA has a minimum contrast ratio of 7:1.
This higher rating will allow people with 20/80 vision to comfortably use your wiki. Those with worse than 20/80 vision usually employ additional assistive technologies, making that the lowest visual acuity that needs to be considered by your CSS alone.
Related topics here at Fandom
- An introduction to this topic
- Including the color blind at your wiki
- An overview of wiki design
- A video town hall about CSS with a section about color theory, starting roughly at the 58-minute mark.
Around the web
- An interactive examination of the importance of contrast in web design
- Colorable, a simple contrast-checker for when you're planning your wiki's color palette.
- CheckMyColours - a tool for checking all your wiki's current foreground and background color combinations.
- The Braille Institute's digital tech section and various free apps that help you simulate several eye disorders.